NFL offseason activities are in full swing, as most teams have started and the rest will start this week. As players begin getting ready for the upcoming season, they are all setting out with the same goal in mind: Win the Super Bowl. While that dream will die for some teams more quickly than for others, every team stands at the same place right now. Based on talent, though, some teams obviously have a better chance at fulfilling that goal than others.
With talent come expectations. Teams who either fell short of their expectations last year or made big offseason moves will have more to prove this year. Here are the teams with most to prove in the 2019 NFL season:
1. Cleveland Browns
After winning a grand total of one game in two seasons, the Browns, led by Baker Mayfield, went 7-8-1 last season. This past offseason, they made some huge moves, punctuated by the trade for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Cleveland also signed Kareem Hunt, traded for Olivier Vernon and signed Sheldon Richardson, among other moves.
Cleveland has a lot to prove this season. In addition to the major influx of top-tier players, young talented players already on their roster are further developing. Their expectations are sky high for the first time in nearly 20 years. Freddie Kitchens showed he was able to win games last year after taking over. He earned himself the full-time head-coaching opportunity. Now, he and the organization as a whole need to prove that the Cleveland Browns’ fortunes have turned for good. They need to make the playoffs this year.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
After making the AFC Championship game in 2017-2018, the Jaguars fell off the rails last season. They won only five games. They were the only team from their division to finish the season without a winning record. Jacksonville’s roster, especially on the defensive side, is still loaded with talent. In fact, Jacksonville still had a top-five defense, last year, in terms of both points and yards.
At quarterback, they cut bait with quarterback Blake Bortles, who many saw as the Jaguars’ problem. To replace him, they signed quarterback Nick Foles, the 2017 Super Bowl MVP who seems to always shine in the biggest moments. They gave Foles a monster four-year, $88 million contract with $50 million guaranteed. Because the Jaguars still have a loaded defense, their expectations are sky high after paying Foles.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota was arguably the most disappointing team last season. Just like Jacksonville, they rode a tremendous defense to the NFC Championship Game in 2017-2018, but missed the playoffs last season. The defense still played well over the course of the season, ending top 10 in both yards and points allowed. However, unlike the Jaguars who signed Nick Foles this year, the Vikings made their huge quarterback splash last offseason. They signed former Washington Redskin Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $84 million deal, with all $84 million guaranteed.
The Vikings ended the season with an 8-7-1 record. They missed the playoffs by just half a game after losing in Week 17 to a Chicago Bears team who had essentially nothing to play for. Kirk Cousins needs to show he can overcome his big-game struggles, which have plagued him throughout his career. Head coach Mike Zimmer has to get the team back to being a contender.
4. New York Jets
The New England Patriots have been, are and will be the class of the AFC East until someone knocks them off the throne. But they obviously don’t have anything to prove to anybody. On the other hand, the New York Jets still have expectations because they made some big offseason additions. New York added players like All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell and All-Pro linebacker CJ Mosley to their roster.
New head coach Adam Gase would have been given a year or two to prove himself as long as he showed ability to develop quarterback Sam Darnold. However, the free agent acquisitions as well as the shocking firing of general manager Mike Maccagnan, which Gase reportedly may have played a part in, speeds up the process. Now, not only do the Jets need to show that Darnold is truly their franchise quarterback, but they should also contend for a wild-card spot.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers arguably have the most complete roster in football, with very good players all across the roster. Their offense has weapons in both the passing and running game and the defense has good players on all three lines. They made the second round of the playoffs last season, but still have to prove they can cut into the next level.
LA hasn’t made the AFC Championship since the 2007 season and now is looking like quarterback Philip Rivers’ best chance at a Super Bowl run. Rivers is 37 years old and only has a few years left in his career. Now that most of the team has playoff experience, the Chargers can look to build on last year’s success. Rivers could potentially win the championship his compatriots from the 2004 draft already have.
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